Cover image for Cathedrals of kudzu : a personal landscape of the South
Cathedrals of kudzu : a personal landscape of the South
Crowther, Hal.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 177 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F209 .C78 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In these essays, one of the most influential Southern journalists of his generation sorts out a whole warehouse of Southern idiosyncrasy and iconography, including the Southern belle, Faulkner, James Dickey, Stonewall Jackson, Cormac McCarthy, guns, dogs, fathers, trees, George Wallace, Elvis, Doc Watson, the decline of poetry, and the return of chain gangs.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Crowther, a former editor and critic for Time and Newsweek and now a syndicated columnist, offers a collection of his personal, sparkling essays, most of which were first published in Oxford American magazine. The subjects that engage his wide-ranging interest all center on southern life and letters. With a luxuriant style, Crowther pays tribute to poet James Dickey (who "raged out of Georgia like an unstable air mass, a sudden storm that blows the windows open"), ponders the current state of the "southern gothic" school of literature, applauds the place of New Orleans' French Quarter in literary history, wonders about George Wallace's future reputation as a historical figure, serves up an ode to the dog ("If you condescend to dogs because they eat things we hate to step in, and resort to grooming tricks we find outre, you've mistaken your affected pantywaist hygiene for moral and intellectual superiority"), among other people, places, and ideas that have crossed his sharp-as-tacks mind. Crowther is to laugh with and learn from. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his foreword Fred Hobson dubs North Carolinian Crowther "a throwback" who resembles the best literary journalists of the early 1900s more than contemporary essayists. Indeed the self-described "born Luddite, anchorite, forest hermit, destroyer of telephones" is an uncommon essayist: a moralist, a widely read generalist, a modern-day Mencken who never hesitates to offend when extolling the virtues or probing the flaws of his favorite subject, the South. These 29 essays (many first published in the Oxford American) skillfully blend the personal and the polemical, experience and reportage, high culture and low, the spiritual and the secular. Crowther's range is best displayed in "God's Holy Fire," which takes to task no less an impressive cast than novelist Reynolds Price, Martin Luther, Kierkegaard, God and the New York Times Book Review. In "The King and I," his uncertain regard for Elvis becomes a touchstone for exploring what's wrong with contemporary America (a recurring theme). Even bemoaning our sorry state, Crowther writes with saving wit and flair, deploring "the Graceland Cult as the state religion of the degenerate `voodoo republic' that is replacing Mr. Jefferson's dignified democracy." Crowther brings both native insight and objective detachment to his analysis of the South's writers (James Dickey, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy), heroes (Stonewall Jackson, George Wallace and Wallace's nemesis, Judge Frank Johnson) and icons (belles, yahoos, radio evangelists). "We'll soon be anachronisms, subjects like me," he allows. But if Crowther is a throwback, he's also a keeperÄand likely the best essayist you've never heard of. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Crowther, a former editor and critic for Time and Newsweek, as well as a screenwriter, prize-winning syndicated newspaper columnist, and contributor to the bimonthly Oxford American (in which many of the works included here were originally published), here collects his essays on Southern life. The author includes essays on the literature of William Faulkner, James Dickey, Cormac McCarthy, Erskine Caldwell, and Walker Percy; the politics of George Wallace and Frank Johnson; the Civil War, the Klan, and the Civil Rights Movement; and such cultural icons and features as Doc Watson, Elvis Presley, fathers, dogs, and guns. Crowther blends an erudite style with good-ol'-boy populism and biting humor to create a well-crafted sense of place and time (the contemporary American South, with a particular emphasis on Oxford, MI, and the Chapel Hill, NC, areas). Recommended for public and academic libraries and collections specializing in Southern literature and Southern studies.DPam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Florence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.